A guide to small business continuity – planning ahead to survive a crisis

Life can be great when you’re running your business as a one man band. You get to escape the shackles of employment including a boss telling you what you do and when.

Of course there are downsides, such as the loss of a regular salary and other employment perks. And the most serious of these is how you would continue to earn money if something happened to you or your business.

It’s called business continuity planning and it’s a serious matter, especially for one man bands.

If you are the only person within your business, the risk is even greater for you. If you had a car accident and couldn’t work for four weeks, who would look after your clients? If you work from home and there’s a serious fire, you could lose your house and business in one go.

Here’s the Bytestart guide to getting a simple business continuity plan together for one man bands and micro-sized businesses.

What could happen?

Here’s where you get to scare yourself with a brainstorm of all the things that could devastate your business. Be creative but realistic and stick to major themes rather than small details.

The biggest issue for one man bands is the loss of the person running the business. This could be in the short or long-term through illness or accident. The early death of the owner also needs to be planned for, so their next of kin knows what to do with the business (sell it or shut it down?). There are rules concerning dissolving limited companies, and of course, outstanding bills need to be paid.

If you lost your home or premises, where would you work? If all of your paperwork was destroyed in a fire, would you know essential details? Do you keep all of your business’s data on a single computer – and have you considered how you’d get the data back if something happened to it? If you do backup, is it automatically done daily offsite?

On a less disastrous scale, do you have a key employee or client that you rely heavily on? What happens if they go? Is there a piece of technology or equipment that generates most of your revenue, which could take six weeks to replace?

What are the immediate actions?

When you’ve finished your brainstorm, there will be some things that need immediate attention. If you’ve just realised your data isn’t being backed up, then fix it immediately. You can easily set up an online backup for just a few pounds a month.

It has to be a key priority to get these things done right away. Anything which can damage your business but is easily dealt with should be tackled as soon as possible.

What will you do?

Once the small items are fixed, what can you do about the big things?

Go through your brainstorm, work out a plan, and write everything down. Keep it as simple as possible, but don’t be tempted to skip writing it down. In the event of a crisis, you’ll appreciate the clarity of your thinking.

Think laterally to solve problems. One man bands can normally easily relocate premises, quickly get new computers, etc. But what about getting client work done while you’re in hospital. Could you form reciprocal partnerships with friendly competitors in other areas? Or identify a list of freelancers that could be contracted to execute the work in an emergency?

Make multiple copies of your plan and keep them safely in different locations. Schedule time in your diary at least once a quarter to review your plan, especially if your business is growing or changing.

Who will you tell?

Don’t keep your plan to yourself. Make sure you tell two or three relevant people about it, such as your partner and maybe even your accountant.

If the worst happens, and you are no longer around, it will be a lot easier for those left behind if you have planned ahead and left clear instructions about what to do with your business.

Your first steps from here

Hopefully, you’ll now be fired up and ready to get going on your business continuity plan.

Use that momentum and get onto it within the next few days. Making plans like these are never fun, but having a business continuity plan could be the difference between saving and losing your business.

Last updated: 22nd February, 2021

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